So-called “humane” farming is often considered an ethical and eco-friendly alternative to factory farming. It is thought to be “humane” because animals raised and killed for food are not intensively confined but have access to the outdoors and space to move around. It is considered more ecologically sound in part because it does not contribute as much to fossil fuel production or produce as much methane gas as industrial agriculture. However, critics argue that “humane” farming is not in fact as humane as it purports to be. In fact, “humane” farming involves many overtly inhumane practices such as castration without anaesthetic. Moreover, its sustainability is highly questionable given the growing global demand for meat. Worst of all, the raising and killing of animals for food is based on the profoundly unjust assertion of “species-right,” or the view that human beings have unlimited entitlement to the bodies and lives of other animals because we are human and they are not. As I argue in this talk, “humane” farming does nothing to challenge – and indeed reinforces – the very logic of domination that undergirds our most abusive industrial practices, such as factory farming.
Zipporah Weisberg is the inaugural Abby Benjamin Postdoctoral Fellow in Animal Ethics, working under the supervision of Will Kymlicka. Her research interests include existential phenomenology, critical social theory, and critical animal studies. She recently completed her Ph.D. in Social and Political Thought from York University.